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A New Year’s Toast to You – Whoever and Wherever You are…

Another year winds down, and I raise my glass and offer you this toast – wherever in the world you may be… Here’s to new friends and old ghosts, reluctant ends and making most. To strangers with things yet to teach And patience for the ones who preach. To tears from which insight is born, And laughter that can mend what’s worn. To love of every kind that’s true And minor chords that cure what’s blue. To once great pain that now seems small, And standing up more than you fall. To good drinks, worthwhile fights, And courage in your darkest nights. May you live what you are meant to do And may this new year be good to you. ~Heather...

No Heroes in Montreal – Why Endless Protest Does Not a Movement Make

Even in this quiet moment between protests and political rhetoric, there remains a good deal of hostility toward “the protesters” in Montreal.  Perhaps by looking back over the last few months we can identify how our city ended up so divided, and how to move forward toward a more inclusive political climate. Because I believe in the right of a people to protest, I’ve been wary in the past few months of criticizing the Montreal protests too strongly.  But it’s not just “protest” in general that I support – and what’s happening here doesn’t make sense to me. So I’m discarding the foolish idea that not supporting the protesters means I’m supporting the government’s actions – because I’m not doing that either.  What I DO believe is that intelligent, well orchestrated tactics of nonviolence (including but not limited to protest) can effect greater and more lasting change than violence. I believe, too, in a peoples right to challenge their government when they feel it does not represent them. But somehow, no matter what you’ve taken to the streets to oppose – no matter how just your cause – your message gets lost when you don’t engage the community, you don’t exercise discipline, or you just start acting like assholes.  In a nutshell, those are my three big issues with this protest-in-progress. Over the past few months, I’ve been pouring through live feeds, mainstream and independent media coverage and the propaganda from both sides. Talking to as many people as I can here in Montreal.  Even with all that information, the whole thing has left me with a feeling of...

Montreal Under Protest – The “Students” vs. The “Grownups”

Students have been protesting the scheduled tuition hike since it was announced in March of 2011.  They have organized marches involving hundreds of thousands of people.  So why has Montreal become so hostile to their message?  Are they fighting for something worthwhile, or simply whining about the increase because they’re used to being so spoiled? ****************** In the beginning I was very skeptical.   I attended university in the U.S., saddled with student loans up to my and my parents’ eyeballs, and the idea of Quebec students protesting a relatively small tuition increase to the lowest tuition in North America seemed rather absurd.  After all, I paid far more in one year than any of them will pay for their entire education.  Who were they kidding? And I had statistics on my side – that well-timed press release that Quebec students were only actually paying 12% of the cost of their education.  Only 12%? Seriously? Many of us – parents, job-holders…the ‘grown-ups’ – had a hard time seeing these student protesters as much more than spoiled, self-entitled kids who just didn’t want to go to class. After all, shouldn’t students have to foot some part of the bill? If it’s free – if they have no stake in it – how can we expect they will take it seriously?  We worked for our educations, so who do they think they are complaining about tuition while they march down St. Catherine Street in their $800 Canada Goose jackets? Get a job. Problem solved. Much to the glee of Mr. Charest, the arguments and condemnation continued to pile up.  People I know who hardly...

An Open Letter to the World

Dear World, I hope this reaches you in all of your corners. You – especially you. Citizens of the world. I feel that it’s urgent that I speak with you directly.  There is something I need you to know.  You see, I am an American.  And while there are a number of things about my community and my country that I am proud of, I know that right now – from the outside – it really does appear that the entire United States has gone batshit crazy.  In some cases, I fear that it has.  But the rest of us are still here. I know that you haven’t seen me on the news.  I don’t own a soapbox – nor do I belong to a church or club that might provide me with one – and I don’t believe in winning an argument by simply yelling the same thing over and over again hoping my opponent will simply get too tired to continue to oppose me.  I don’t think that “because my God said so” is a valid argument in ANY political forum.  I don’t look like a dirty hippy and I often wear suits to work, so the media is unlikely to use me to represent protest or dissent.  I also – perhaps most importantly – don’t hate anyone, which apparently isn’t very newsworthy.  I believe that all people are created equal until they prove themselves to be idiots or assholes. I know it seems that people like myself are vastly outnumbered here, but that isn’t true.  It’s only that being rational and accountable doesn’t make good television.  It doesn’t make anyone richer. Unfortunately, I don’t imagine I’ve been alive...

“A” is for Accountability

If we truly desire that our government be by the people and for the people, then accountability must begin with the people. Whether you support them or not, there has been a new dialogue created by the Occupy Wall Street Movement.  If my own colorful circle of friends is any indication, the reactions to the ongoing protests are anything but unanimous.  While some commentary is fairly predictable of those standing stubbornly behind their elephant or donkey (respectively), I couldn’t help but notice that despite our seemingly enormous differences, there is – believe it or not – a thread that seems to unify the dialogue of supporters and detractors alike. An actual patch of common ground. We all – except maybe for that one guy in Zuccotti Park getting too many hits on YouTube for yelling that the world owes him stuff – believe in the idea of being responsible for our own actions – and holding other people accountable for theirs. It seems that everyone weighing in on both sides speaks to this idea of accountability.  The trouble is that no matter which side you are on, the fingers are always pointing in the wrong direction. Because accountability is not a justification for placing blame. In fact, it’s the opposite. It is an onus – a duty of each of us as citizens of a democracy – to know (at the very least) what the hell we are talking about.   A Strategic Shift   So let’s start from scratch for a moment.  Because this is important.  For the first time in a very long time, people are talking seriously...

The Occupation of Wall Street – a beginning

When people in other countries rally in protest, many of us somehow feel as though we stand with them.  As far removed as we may be, when they decry their governments and peacefully demand change we applaud them.  When they are physically attacked, we demand accountability. They garner our support as they exercise their rights to demand democracy, equality, and all the things we like to think we stand for. When talking about “state controlled media” in other countries, we accept that these broadcasts are biased. We know what propaganda is, and when we look elsewhere – or in history – we see how effectively it can be used. So then why, when those same protests happen here in our own country, are we so quick to dismiss them as a small group of 20-something, disorganized, dirty hippy, nothing-better-to-do college radicals – who can’t even agree on what their demands are? Why do we feel we are immune from the same bias of state and media? If we are actually democratic, shouldn’t we – at the very least – hear what they have to say?  Do we honestly believe we have nothing to legitimately protest? Have you happened to notice that the bulk of network ‘news reports’ on the movement read strangely more like angry, dismissive editorials than, well, news? That instead of simply providing facts, they want to make sure they tell you how you should feel about it?  I hope you’re paying attention. No matter what political party you hate the least, as Americans we can usually agree that our government – the country itself – is...
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